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Donald Trump wouldn’t rule out firing special counsel Robert Mueller after the FBI searched the home and office of Trump’s longtime personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen on Monday—even though the search wasn’t conducted by Mueller’s team, but by federal prosecutors. Trump’s response revives a question Republicans have desperately tried to bury: which Republicans are going to step up and push to protect Mueller from illegitimate firing by Trump?

Just a few weeks back, the Senate’s number two Republican, John Cornyn, said “I don’t see the necessity of picking that fight.” Sen. Lindsey Graham, who co-sponsored a bill protecting Mueller from unilateral firing, said that “I don’t think anybody in our conference thinks Mueller is going to be fired. I don’t.”

And now, asked if he would fire Mueller, Trump said “we’ll see” and went on to blather about a “witch hunt.” While characterizing a law enforcement search of his shady lawyer’s stuff as “an attack on our country in a true sense.” Which Republicans are going to claim that they just don’t see the necessity of picking the fight because nobody really believes Trump would fire Mueller? House Speaker Paul Ryan is going to need to go beyond having a spokesperson say that “Mr. Mueller and his team should be able to do their job.” Graham is going to have to get serious about that bill protecting Mueller’s independence. Cornyn … well, Cornyn is going to continue to be one of the worst people in the Senate, but it’s going to get pretty obvious pretty fast how little he’s interested in ensuring an independent investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia.

There is no cover any longer, not even a fig leaf’s worth. If Republicans don’t take action to protect Mueller’s investigation from Trump, they’re as good as giving Trump permission to fire Mueller for the sin of getting uncomfortably close to Donald Trump.

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